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Methodism as a Christian Movement

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Today, we begin a new three-part sermon series “An Exploration of Methodism and Its Untimely Relevancy.” Click below to listen to the first part, “Methodism as a Movement.” 

The Scripture we’ve read describes John Wesley’s Methodism making it more of a movement than anything else.

Four themes emerge out of this Scripture. These themes, from my reading of John Wesley’s sermons and other writings, represent the hallmarks of Methodism, as a movement.

These hallmarks of John Wesley’s Methodism is what will make it relevant. The hallmarks we’re looking at also make up characteristics of movements that reach generations far in the future.

Methodism represents an expression of Christianity and is a movement that will continue to be relevant for many generations to come. 

The Methodists were all about growing in faith

The first characteristic of John Wesley’s Methodism was faith. Wesley was all about faith and grace. It was not just about faith, but growing in faith.

Wesley referred to that as “moving toward perfection.” He wrote and preached that we’re saved through faith. It’s also by faith we receive justification.

Today, some of you may have heard of God’s justifying Grace, which is also characteristic of Methodism. It is about God’s salvation that becomes personal once you invite Jesus into your life as your Lord and Savior.

John Wesley also taught that faith creates a new law, which helps us experience God’s righteousness and walk in a way that’s pleasing to God.

Walking and experiencing God’s righteousness is what could be referred to as sanctifying Grace. Faith, in Methodism, was not just something you talk about, but something you embrace and demonstrate. It’s also something in which you grow.

A life of sanctification helps you with that. John Wesley is known to be the founder of Methodism. He did not come up with the name at first until this was given them as a mockery.

John was born in 1703, and his parents were Samuel and Susanna Wesley. John had lots of siblings and was the 15th child of Samuel and Susanna. Susanna helped all her kids with early education so that as soon as they could walk, they were already able to read.

Later and around the age of 22, John became a fellow at the University of Oxford, in London. A fellow means a tutor or lecturer. It also stands for a research fellow, which is a path one takes, and that will lead to becoming a full professor at the university.

The first phase of Methodism started while he was working as a tutor/mentor on campus. His younger brother, Charles, comes to ask him to help him and his friends better live out their faith, as Christians, on campus. He would then come up with a method on how to do it: prayer, study, and service. They did all that as a group, as well as individually.

The Methodists turned everything into something that would work for the movement

People made fun of what these students were doing on campus, and gave them the name of “Methodists.” John Wesley would suggest the group to turn this mockery against the others by naming themselves as Methodists.

I refer to this phase in John’s life as the early Methodism. The Methodism, however, we know of today, is what comes later, in the year 1738. In case, you have not heard, this is referred to as the “Aldersgate experience.”

John, upon his return from Georgia, and after a very unsuccessful mission with the native Americans, decides to pray with the Moravians. It was during that meeting, “his heart was strangely warmed.” And, that was his new spiritual birth.

He felt like he was a new person with a new mission. Wesley was literally on fire. His life and message changed as a result. His new way of life would impact his ministry and everything else.

However, it will not help his ministry in the Church of England. Because of his enthusiasm and message of grace, the doors to the Church of England would be shut to him.

As a result, John resolves to go where people are to share his new spiritual experience. One of his Moravian mentors told John to preach faith until he has faith.

In other words, all that we do should be about faith. Faith in Jesus Christ is more significant than any institution. And, doing so makes us more of a movement than only just a Church.

John Wesley always believed that “faith begets faith.” That made Methodism a movement grounded in faith. It was about people that are willing to do what it takes to grow in their faith.

The Methodists increased and abounded in love

The other characteristic of Wesley’s Methodism is “love.” Here’s not something you only do, but a practice in which you increase. John, whether in the early Methodism or the latter, encouraged Methodists to show God’s love.

In both phases in the life of Methodism, showing love to others is a practice to observe every week. Loving others has been our Methodist heritage and DNA. However, remember that early Methodism combined this practice with sharing the faith.

They did not separate the two. The people receiving acts of God’s love would also be given an opportunity to invite Jesus Christ into their lives as their Lord and Savior. That was another characteristic of the Methodist movement: sharing faith in Christ while demonstrating acts of God’s love with others.

The Methodists lived with the end in mind

“Flee from the wrath to come” was, for John, the ticket to joining the Methodist movement. Not, only was it a ticket to becoming a Methodists.

It was also a mindset that every Methodist should immediately begin preparing for the end​.It was a choice the person wanting to join had to make publicly.

Once you express the desire to flee from the wrath to come in front of people at a Methodist society, they’ll then send you to a Methodist class. You’ll then join a small group of other Methodists who meet on a weekly basis. In these meetings, people hold each other accountable and help one another move toward perfection.

We’ll talk more about all that in the next section of our series. Let’s go back, and for a moment, to 1 Thessalonians, our today’s Scripture. Paul, Sylvanus, and Timothy begot faith into the Thessalonians.

In verse 6, these people have become imitators of Paul, Sylvanus, and Timothy.

Now, what happens is: 

  • They become an example to all the believers. Verse 7. All and everywhere see Their faith. Verse 8.
  • All this is a result of turning to God from idols and serving the living and true God. Verse 9.
  • They wait for God’s Son, Jesus Christ who delivers from the wrath to come. Verse 10. 

The chapter closes with “the wrath to come.” This phrase reminds of the ticket to become a Methodist.

What “the desire to flee from the wrath to come” means is threefold:

  • A sense of urgency.
  • Everyone is in ministry.
  • Let’s bring people to know and receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. In the case of the early Methodists, they wanted to have as many Methodists as possible.

The chapter closes with “the wrath to come.” This phrase reminds of the ticket to become a Methodist.

Conclusion

We want to be a movement, that’s what we should reflect: 1)urgency, 2)everyone in ministry through our Church, and 3)bringing people to faith and helping them grow. That’s Methodism and how it has become untimely relevant.

Emmanuel T Naweji
Emmanuel Naweji is a husband and father. He has been a Christian since when he was a teenager. His passion is to help people find clarity and gain confidence to succeed at everything they do in life. He fulfills his passion and calling as a Pastor, Coach, Speaker, and Blogger.
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